A snapshot of a media market wrestling with uncertainty, including advertising’s shift from boom to bust, the appearance of a sense of realism in the subscription space, and the increasing prominence of climate coverage.
Media Moments 2022 is the fifth annual media market review from the Media Voices Podcast, and it provides a snapshot of a media market wrestling with the pressures of a global economic downturn and the constant evolution of publishing technology.
The sense of relief that publishing markets enjoyed at the beginning of 2022 was short-lived. While the scale of 2021’s bounce-back was warmly welcomed – the IAB reported the biggest single-year ad revenue rise since 2006 – fears for the future stormed in with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
The Big Tech players missed their targets and growth predictions shrunk back to 5.9% for the year. Bucking the trend, Amazon posted 25% growth and Tik Tok reported an impressive $4 billion revenue increase. On the back of privacy changes that have interrupted third-party advertising on its platforms, Apple was said to be targeting $4 billion in annual ad revenues.
Growth continued in subscription revenues, but publishers worried that economic pressure on household incomes would force a subscription shakeout. INMA reported cancellations were up compared with 2021 and market confidence took a hit when Netflix reported the loss of 1 million subscribers in the second quarter of the year.
Despite the pessimism, several leading publishers posted record subscription results. The New York Times, The Economist and Defector saw significant gains. All rested their success on unique, trusted, quality content and, looking ahead, publishers that want to grow their reader revenues must focus on targeted messaging, competitive pricing, and a differentiated content offering.
No publishing channel grew faster than digital audio in 2022. Advertising spending in the sector grew nearly 58%, reaching $4.9 billion, according to the IAB. However, there has also been a welcome sense of reality creeping into podcast publishing. Looking beyond the scale claimed by a very few mainstream podcasts, niche shows are using small numbers of highly engaged listeners to generate advertising revenue and to support subscription sales.
This year has been the year of newsletter ‘normalisation’, when every major publisher came to understand that email is a critical component of their editorial strategy. Newsletters are being positioned as a counter to the ‘firehose’ of the social stream, with convenience listed by consumers as the format’s most attractive feature. Audience insights and first-party data are key benefits for publishers.
Covering the climate crisis is becoming increasingly important for publishers. Concerns over the impact of rising temperatures are driving audience engagement, which is in turn delivering more subscriptions. As more brands work to associate themselves with positive climate action, advertising revenue is also expected to grow. Growing interest has seen publishers invest in specialist staff to cover the climate brief, or encouraging all staff to include an environmental element in their work.
Other chapters from Media Moments 2022 look at changes in the broadcast market where streaming has overtaken traditional distribution; a more optimistic outlook for local news publishers; and the problem of news avoidance and declining trust in news, globally.
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This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends is a division of Spiny.ai, a content analytics and revenue generation platform for digital publishers. For weekly updates and analysis on the industry news you need as a media and publishing business, subscribe to Spiny’s Trends weekly email roundup here.